If I could imagine what life may have looked like, had I not taken this particular journey, I would ask—why did I choose this life? Some people believe that our souls choose this particular body in this particular time and place before we become a fetus, before we are born into this world. Given a true choice, wouldn’t I naturally opt for a thinner body with medium size breasts and straight teeth?
Erin Pavlina makes these assertions:
When you are in the ether you remember that you are a part of consciousness and that you are being sent out into the world to experience, learn, and grow. You know that physical life is temporary, and that the pain and adversity you face as a physical being is but a moment in your existence. Why do people choose to enter a life that is filled with pain and torment? Because from the perspective of the ether, any pain or adversity is but a blip of discomfort in the grand scheme of things. It’s like asking if you are willing to suffer a paper cut in order to gain vast wisdom and knowledge and tremendous personal growth.
In my mind, I imagine it like a rope swing. I think about the journey that my roller coaster self-esteem-driven body has taken me on, and I see myself considering the options of taking another bite—would I let out a barbaric yawp into the ether and fly into the wild earth? Or would I stay safe—take another bite and let myself sink further into my comfort zone?
If I’d let go of the rope and created a life for myself, full of lean, athletic bodies, popularity contests, and a virginity that withered well before my twenties, who would I be?
Would I have been that vulnerable woman who said yes to the unknown? Would I have met a man in college and stayed in the Midwest? Would I be a mother? Would I tuck my children into their beds at night, kissing their soft cheeks, brushing hair from sweaty foreheads, shushing their protests, then closing the door silently behind me in sweet relief of another day without tragedy?
Would my husband and I become so used to our mundane life that we approach our fifties without a hint of sexual desire? Or would one of us be struck with a yearning so great that we must express or explode—and because the other is our best friend, we must confess—that the tumble-dry cycle of our sex life simply isn’t enough?
Would we then go to a series of sexual enlightenment workshops, awkward at first because this is all new, and sometimes the worn-in feeling of familiarity is much preferred over the fear of the unknown, to find later that we have both fallen in love with our instructor (And who wouldn’t? They are all at once sensual, kinky, loving, torturous, and safe.), who then somehow convinces us that this is completely normal and is actually a reflection of our renewed lust for each other?
Would we then leap back into our home life with gusto and a plethora of spontaneous sex—in closets when the children are in twilight sleep, on the balcony where our neighbors just might see, or with a voracious interest in play toys of all kinds?
Would I, as I am inclined to do, reflect earnestly in my journal, each paragraph a rabbit hole for the next great big blank page?
Oh white space, you are inviting. You tease with your crisp cleanness and your ample availability. You offer your lush white bosom as a landing pad for a sprinkle of thoughts, then a deluge, then a monsoon of words and creativity. I am wet with your weather. Consume me, let me soil your innocence with my wisdom as well as my curiosity, for it is that which completes the circle in the end.
Yesterday, I was one of those who was going to stay away from the crowds of the Women’s March in downtown Portland. I am all for marches and protests, especially peaceful ones, but I also suffer from some anxiety surrounding these types of events. It’s not claustrophobia, but it does in a sense carry some of those connotations. To a certain extent, if I’m being truly honest here, I also kind of just didn’t want to be bothered. Bothered to go out into a cold, rainy day. To try and find a bathroom where the line isn’t half a mile long. To make sure I didn’t get pepper sprayed or get caught up in violence. To be on my feet all day.
My friend Claudia had stayed the night with me and she was getting ready for the March while I puttered around the kitchen, sorting out my day. She said, Why aren’t you going again? I said, Well, I have some things to do, and then an appointment, and…yeah. Kinda shaky excuses. Claudia, being one of my dearest friends, looked me in the eye and replied,
What will you say when future generations ask you if you were at the Women’s March on January 21, 2017? I had a hair appointment, the traffic was bad? I’m gonna say I joined thousands in a beautiful day of solidarity.
Well that arrow hit its target right on the nose. I packed my backpack with a hastened clump of waterproof clothing, snacks, hydration, wet wipes, and we were off to catch the bus. The first one flew by our stop, packed front to back with passengers. The collective groaning of a dozen people let loose on cue. Luckily, I live by a frequent service stop with several bus lines, so about seven minutes later another one came and it was only about half full. Huzzah!
We got off the bus and headed to the spot where we were meeting other marchers. Claudia and I hadn’t exactly planned our entrance very well, and since we were already running late, had expected we’d just grab some food somewhere and take it with us to the march. Except every quick/fast service restaurant was packed with protesters. And it was pouring rain, so eating outside wouldn’t be as effortless as we had imagined in our head. And even if we did manage to eat our food without first soaking it in Portland’s famous “weather au jus,” we were standing butt-to-butt, and, since I’m so short, I’d most likely be eating a burrito to the tune of someone’s accidental elbow throw. That just didn’t sound fun to me. So Claudia and I broke off from the group to get something solid in our stomachs a little farther out, with the intention that we would meet up with the other ladies again later. We went to Thirsty Lion, since it’s huge inside and they are usually prepared for crowds. The restaurant was quite full, but we got seated right away. Our waitress was super! She was quick during a very busy time, answered our questions expertly, and best of all, helped us in a tiny way that had a huge impact. I asked her if she had two trash bags that we could have. At first she didn’t understand. I explained the beauty of how trash bags make fantastic makeshift raincoats! In the short half hour or so we’d been outside, Claudia and I were already partially soaked and it was not looking like it would let up any time soon. She came back with two industrial trash bags. They were gigantic—and perfect! We set up our new look. Rip a neck hole, two arm holes, help your neighbor put it up and over the her backpack, and there you go! We looked like two drowned rats with hump backs! Trés chic!
I didn’t know what to expect when we re-entered the crowd. I know the protests the night before had drawn all sorts of agendas, both peaceful and a little less so. There were flash-bang devices discharged, pepper spray dispensed, and a lot of anger spread out over the city, held mostly at bay by the Portland Police. I protested in the past during the Iraq War. Back then the police I experienced were much different. Instead of trying to prevent conflicts from arising and helping to keep the protests contained, they would bait protesters into angry reactions, thereby enabling them to “legally” detain protesters. I’m not sure when they beefed up their training on civil unrest events, but I have to hand it to them—they have recently done a much better job overseeing the crowds. (This is just my opinion. Feel free to comment below if your experience has been different.) Instead of putting on a show as tyrannical monoliths of punishment, they displayed their humanity. Cops with pink pussy hats on waved us on. Most of them smiled broadly at us as we walked by. I tried to thank as many as I could, because let’s face it, no matter how you feel personally about the police, you must understand that theirs is a tough job.
The energy was palpable. Everyone there was a cousin of the spirit! We laughed maniacally in the rain, danced in the sloppy mud mosh pit, shouted chants of positivity, squished butt-to-butt with our new friends, giggled at the amazing creativity of the signs, and most of all, came together with the intention of unity.
When the younger generation asks me where I was on January 21, 2017, I’ll tell them I was right there alongside the most beautiful, diverse, and loving group of people I have ever known.
I am FURIOUS with my neighbor!! She raises an ire in me that is incredibly hard to control. She spits venomous words at me and baits me to engage in a senseless fight that basically consists of her accusing me of sleeping with her boyfriend because I strut (her words) back and forth in front of their apartment, encouraging him to admire me like a prize pony. (According to her, my strutting occurs when I am grabbing my laundry from the basement—in my sweatpants and pony tail. I must look damn fine in those sweatpants! Why do I even bother putting on dresses if ya’ll really like the sweatpants??)
For the record, I am most definitely not sleeping with or at all interested in her partner. I tell myself I won’t take the bait and return fire. I try to convince myself I am in control of those faculties that tell me to just WALK AWAY. But every time she confronts me (four and counting), I get this urge to try and convince her I am a good woman, a good person… And the thing is, it really doesn’t matter! What’s she going to do, nominate me for the Nobel Peace Prize after she realizes her horrible and embarrassing mistake? Not likely!
Her anger isn’t about me. In fact, I’m relatively certain she knows I’m not actually sleeping with her boyfriend. It’s about what is inside her heart that makes her lash out at a perfect stranger. She is obviously hurting. Even before our feud started, she never had a friendly word for any of her neighbors. She always has a grimace on her face. It makes me sad for her. Not so sad that I don’t deliver several choice words in the privacy of my home after a confrontation, though. I let my blood rise to a boil and I vent for far too long to my girlfriends about it. It runs over and over like a movie in front of my eyes, and I can’t stop it.
For me, anger takes on two costume changes. One I see as something negative, dark. The dark side is the one that makes my veins bulge out of my neck, makes my head ache and my fists clench. I feel the sweat form at my temples and a slow burn starts at my crown and moves into my chest. It makes me feel like I have lost control. It makes me a victim. And this is not who I want to be.
Every issue, belief or assumption is precisely the issue that stands between you and your relationship to another human being; and between you and yourself.
Gita Bellin said this, but I have heard it many times over. Is it true? Am I seeing part of myself in this hurting human being? Why can’t I just let it go? Am I that same, sad girl? Twice, I’ve let myself actually yell back at her, which is very unlike me. In the moment, I truly believe I’m defending my honor…but what is really going on?
The other side of my anger is light and bright, and I see it as pure motivation to change what I don’t like. For example, my recent promotion came out of what started as anger. Did I stomp around and suffer in silence while continuing to go to work every day for less than I deserved? Well, yes, but not for long. I used that anger as fuel to focus on the prize. Once I had a clear vision of how I was going to change my situation, a calm feeling washed over me and I began working on my goal. The nerves and anger dissipated quickly.
Now what do I do with that emotion when it comes upon me? I’ve read articles that tell me to “sit in my anger.” Why the hell would I want to do that?? I don’t want to stay sweaty and fired up. I want to smile and giggle like I usually do.
Is this “sitting in anger” actually a technique of loving myself in all states of emotion? To sit in anger is to accept it. It is painfully obvious to me that I am very hesitant to sit in any emotion for long. Could I really slow down, stop trying to cut to the front, and appreciate standing in a long line in order to get to know that part of me that gets heated?
What do you do, readers? I welcome your suggestions, your hugs, and a few paper bags to breathe into when my neighbor comes a’shouting again.
I have about a million thoughts as I settle down to write Part III of this series, Challenging Conversations, Conscious Choices. You can read Part I here and Part II here.
This week has been tumultuous. There’s no other way to put it. Partly it’s the election and subsequent reactions to said election; partly it’s about other, more personal things. I’ve seen pictures and stories of odium, examples of great love and selflessness, and all the shades in between. This emotional back and forth has taken a toll on me. I’m exhausted.
When I get so exhausted, I am particularly vulnerable. I have these fears that wash over me, dark feelings that know the perfect time to strike. These thoughts have an incredible ability to make me feel inferior and different. Strangely, when I’m feeling great about myself, I celebrate the Becky who stands out in a crowd, who doesn’t do things because everyone else does, who doesn’t cave to every trend. I think that’s part of what makes me special. So in my heart I know these false feelings of inferiority only prey on me when they know they can.
Thankfully, in my journey I have come to recognize these as passing notions. I use several tools to center myself when I find I’ve been caught up in an emotional cyclone.
The very first thing I say to myself is I control how I react. I can’t control what happens in the world. I can’t even control what happens in my life half the time, but only I can choose to take the world’s baloney and respond by either pulling out two slices of bread, or grabbing the compost bucket and trashing it. I make that conscious choice.
Something else that really helps me is to use one of several new age tarot-like decks that I own. I’m not skilled at reading cards by any means, but it gives me calm to pull one or two from my “Healing with the Fairies” oracle deck, my “Affirmators!” card collection, or my “Native American Animal Medicine Cards.” These things ground me. They give me something tangible to focus on. This evening I meditated on the state of the world, and then pulled a card from my Animal Medicine deck. I pulled the Hummingbird. Two things stuck out at me. First, I was captivated by this line: Hummingbird can give us the medicine to solve the riddle of the contradiction of duality. It intrigued me to read on, because in my meditation before I pulled the card, I had asked the universe to help me make sense of the yin/yang balance of everything that is happening right now. I think everyone can appreciate the struggle of seeing the light in the dark, grudgingly acknowledge the crack that lets the light in (RIP Leonard Cohen). Well, hummingbird is here to help.
“If contrary Hummingbird sings its forlorn song, perhaps you should journey into your personal pain and know that your sorrow is your joy in another reflection.”
Second, the hummingbird is an enjoyer of life. Again, from the Medicine Card deck:
“If Hummingbird is your personal medicine, you love life and its joys. Your presence brings joy to others. You join people together in relationships which bring out the best in them. You know instinctively where beauty abides and, near or far, you journey to your ideal. You move comfortably within a beautiful environment and help others taste the succulent nectar of life.”
People who know me even the slightest bit will immediately recognize that this is an extremely accurate description. I endeavor to find happiness and laughter wherever I go. I am incredibly blessed to be able to make friends with just about anyone I encounter. Where my life may lack the loving responsibilities of parenthood and the wonderful challenge of a having a lifelong partner as of yet, this provides me the space and time to help those more bogged down to find joy in the most unexpected places. Want a zydeco dance partner? I’m your woman. Looking for someone to join you at a volunteer event? Call me! Want to go for a hike or a run? Heck yeah I do! I have a metaphorical backpack bursting with victories, small and large, of the journey I’m taking in my life, and I love to share them. I’m also the best damn auntie in the world. Children need an adult they can love and trust other than their parents; I adore being that person for many of my friends’ children.
So this is what I choose to know. My capacity to love grows stronger every single day. My heart knows no limits. I can love my neighbor as well as myself unconditionally. I can see the light and the dark as something to grow with, and I will continue to build myself up to be the best Becky I can be.
What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of that emotional cyclone and you want to get out? I want you to know, here and now, that if you need to talk to a peer, use one of my decks of cards, or need someone to lighten your day with a laugh or earnest hug, I’m here for you. I love you.
The other day, my coworker, Hannah, and I had a talk about race, which is a pretty frequent topic with us—especially these days. She is black and I am white. I come from the Midwest, where it was mostly black and white when I was growing up (that demographic has changed somewhat since my childhood); she is from DC, where there is a huge variety of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Being from areas of more prevalent African-American presence, we converse with ease about the current racial discourse.
That day, when a coworker overheard us talking, she put on her “mama bear” voice and tutted loudly enough so we could hear it. The space between cubicles is small and the “walls” are thin to begin with. I can only guess that she felt we were getting a little too deep for a coffee break conversation. Or was it because she felt the topic was inappropriate?
Here in the Pacific Northwest, many people, white people in particular, are afraid to speak when it comes to race relations. There is a legitimate societal reason for this—Oregon is known for its tawdry past (and, unfortunately, some current history as well) with the treatment of African Americans. More than likely, folks around here also don’t have enough experience to talk about it with any sort of confidence. Second, and more realistically, they may think that because we are in a predominantly white area that these problems won’t come here…and so they push those topics under the rug. Unfortunately, many people don’t have that luxury.
So many times in Portland I have heard passive racism. A man I was dating once said, “Stop talking like that!” when I sassed him. What he meant was, stop talking like a sassy, loud black woman. But I wasn’t talking like a sassy black woman. I was talking like Becky. That’s me; it’s how I grew up. The way I speak comes from my environment, yes. Maybe the “norm” of sassiness stereotypically comes from black women—we see this reinforced all the time in the media, which in turn bleeds into the way we think. But passive racism is still racism. (And don’t think this sassy woman didn’t call him out on it!)
This past Monday evening, I went to a Science on Tap talk at Revolution Hall in SE Portland. Dr. Larry Sherman was there, speaking about the neuroscience of prejudice. I was fascinated. Before he got into the actual science of it, he gave a little bit of the history of racism in America. He spoke about the theory of colorblindness that was spread throughout the sixties and seventies, which then trickled down to my generation. Our parents were taught not to observe color at all. If a child asked his mother, “Why does that boy have darker skin?” the mother would hush her child and change the subject instead of explaining that people come in all colors. Thus, this topic turned into a taboo one. It was incredibly refreshing to hear Dr. Sherman talk about this “taboo” topic.
Without a doubt, I proudly seek out people from diverse cultures to talk to. I attend presentations like the one Dr. Sherman gave, as well as pursue events in Portland with multicultural emphasis such as the Whiteness History Month at Portland Community College this past spring. I attend cultural festivals, have delved into Middle Eastern traditions through belly dance, and have even developed my education through salsa dancing! For me, it’s all about learning new things and respecting diversity.
When I talk about race, I use my history. I talk openly about experiences and what my truth is. I am respectful in my dialogue with others. I REFUSE to not talk about it. Impeccability with our words is of the utmost importance. You know what’s not impeccable? Being silent. Being a privileged white woman doesn’t give me glasses that block out all the bad things that are happening to others. And just because I don’t have brown skin doesn’t mean I can’t talk about these people as HUMAN BEINGS—humans who are made of love, just like every other color human on the earth. We are all made of that same love. Sometimes it is hard to remember when we are seeing such horrors in the news.
We are trained for shame.
We are trained to have selective knowledge.
We are trained to protect ourselves first.
Retrain your brain.
Educate yourself. If you have a question, ASK!
Spread love and be love.
Speak with respect and warm intention. It will get you miles further than speaking with arrogance and ignorance.
Renowned martial artist Bruce Lee described the opponent he was most wary of: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” In my astrological opinion, you should regard that as one of your keystone principles during the next 12 months. Your power and glory will come from honing one specific skill, not experimenting restlessly with many different skills. And the coming weeks will be an excellent time to set your intention. – Rob Brezsny
It’s a theme that is so common in every thread of life: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I hear it every week in belly dance class. My instructor and dear friend, Claudia, is unyielding in her insistence that you can take a set of simple moves and make them incredible with a metric ton of practice and a heavy helping of personality.
I can drill with the best of them. I love it. I could shimmy for hours; hone my taksim and maya for days. Add in that personality or emotional factor, however, and I crumble. Showing my vulnerability is one of my biggest fears. To show your vulnerability is terrifying, but essential to being a whole dancer. It’s what gives the dance tarab. Tarab is the climax of a feeling derived from hearing music expressing an intense emotion. I struggle with this, because I love belly dance with a passion; I want to be a complete dancer—tarab and all. I feel these emotions with the music and the movement, but somehow I can’t set them free into the universe, because that would open me up to something incredibly scary. The audience would see the raw, naked parts of me. It’s the gift of imperfection. It’s what makes us relate to other humans. But I always seem to see it as a gag gift. To her credit, Claudia never gives up on me. She just makes me do it again and again. If we dance for an hour and she sees one glimpse of my wall breaking down, she knows it can happen another time, and she encourages me to get back up and expose myself again. I am a dancer. Music and movement are my passion, and no amount of failure will make me stay down, because I yearn to cultivate this gift of mine.
Dating…I cannot count the number of times I’ve been stood up, “ghosted,” or rejected. If you’ve ever tried online dating, you know the frustration that can build so easily. Greater quantity does not necessarily mean better quality. I’ve met some true gems, but the timing wasn’t right or our schedules didn’t match up. Do I sit at home and cry about it? Yes. But then I get back up and try again. I set up yet another date to meet someone new, holding out hope that my person is out there. I am strong, smart, beautiful, and deserve to be loved. I am love.
America has felt over and over the hate that comes from fear. We see people killed for reasons beyond our comprehension. Hate crimes, terrorism, crimes of passion. It is a scary time in our existence. We easily fall down rabbit holes of depression and distress, struggling to get back up. Should we give up, let ourselves sink back down to the darkness forever? No. We repeat our mantras of love and acceptance. We recognize that there is a purpose for the light and the dark, and search for a balance. We get to know our neighbors. Sometimes I falter at knowing what I can do for my brothers and sisters of the world. But I can start with something small—holding each of us in the light. That is what my Quaker faith taught me to do—understand that there is that of God in every person, no matter what they have done or who they are. I can start there. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If my one, time-tested impeccable “kick” turns out to be sharing my love with you, then I am honored to try, try again, with every blog I post and every action I take, whether that be writing a few words, sharing my passion for dance, or practicing loving kindness, expecting nothing in return.
When I was a child, my mother often read out loud to me. She would never start at chapter one—instead, she patiently read every single page, including the author’s name, the illustrator, dedication, and forward. The only exception was the library of congress page, although she did always note the copyright date.
For my birthday in 2015, she sent a book entitled Stressed is Dessert Spelled Backwards, written by Brian Luke Seaward with a forward by Joan Lunden; no illustrator this time. I brought this book on a flight to San Diego. I was already well into it, enjoying it thoroughly, but needed to put it down to do something…I can’t remember what. Maybe stretch. Maybe have a drink of water. While it was lying on my tray table, the pages curling upwards, I noticed writing on one of the pages—the title page—one I had skipped because I had read the title on the cover and didn’t think it was necessary. (Sorry, mom.)
She had inscribed it, “Dear Becky, hope this is a help when you become upset. Love, Mom. August 31, 2015.” My birthday. Tears instantly came to my eyes when I read this. I was four chapters in by this time, and it was blowing my mind. I could see why she was drawn to it personally. There is a lot of reflection on the power of prayer, something my mother believes in very strongly. Both of my parents raised me to have a close relationship with God, and, though it has changed, waxed, and waned over the years, that relationship remains inside of me. Call it prayer, call it manifestation, it’s all based on a spirituality that is incredibly personal, and it gives me a connection with the universe, love, and every person on this planet.
Right now in my faith, I have decided that God is a name for life-force. Existence. Love. So when I pray, it is not necessarily to an almighty power. I am praying to myself, to a drop of water, to a strand of hair, everything that holds a vibration—energy. When I think it, when I feel it, I manifest it. We all do. The power of energy is strong.
And now I’m back home, inspired. My muse is sitting on my shoulder. He is wearing a kilt, and has a glencairn of pinot barrel-aged gin in his left hand and a whip in the other. He’s tapping his foot impatiently. So, armed the wisdom of my new-agey knowledge, I decide now is the perfect time to do something I’ve been waiting all of 2015 for. Open my happiness jar.
I’m not going to lie, I saw it on Pinterest. It was January 2015. I was feeling optimistic after a fantastic New Year’s Eve and thought, what a great idea! I find a jar (in my case it was a tall cylindrical vase), decorate it, and drop in memories and trinkets that remind me how blessed I am. I told myself I would read it on New Year’s Eve 2015, but of course I ended up going to a party; you know how those things go. So tonight, a few days into the new year, I am cracking it open to see what gems I experienced over the last year. Here are a few.
- I have two friends that, when we get together, jokingly call our group the Venus Flytraps. We occasionally have goddess gatherings at my place (or hen party, ladies night, etc.). At one of these gatherings, I decided to print out each of our horoscopes from Free Will Astrology that week on beautiful gold paper and present them to each lady. After the gathering I decided to stick it in my jar to see how it would manifest. My Virgo horoscope read as follows: It is always important to know when something has reached its end,” writes Paulo Coelho in his book The Zahir. Use this advice heroically in 2015, Virgo. Wield it to clear away anything that no longer serves you, that weighs you down or holds you back. Prepare the way for the new story that will begin for you around your next birthday. “Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters,” Coelho says, “it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” Thud, thud, thud, goes my heart. Letting go in the last year has served me incredibly well. I let go of tired expectations about relationships, old understandings about my sensual and sexual expression. Some of you know that my boyfriend and I parted ways (although I didn’t get rid of him entirely—he is still very much a part of my life as a dear friend). I let free my assumptions about who I am as a dancer, as a runner, even as a writer. I simply am those things. I look forward to seeing what fills the space of the things I let go in the coming year.
- A Louise Hay Power of Thought card: I allow others to be themselves. This card was handed to me after a particularly snarly interaction with a friend of mine while camping. Now, I love my friend Joe, I do. He is like the brother I never had. But as all brothers do, he gets on my nerves from time to time. And on that day, he had gotten on my last one. I blew up at him in front of 6 others in my campsite. I don’t think any of those people have ever seen me do anything but smile; I’m a pretty positive person 98% of the time. After my little tantrum, I stomped around camp for a while, drank my coffee, and avoided eye contact with my fellow campers. Then, my friend Sarah came up to me and handed me this card. She said, if you love Joe, you have to love him for who he is…flaws and all. I was embarrassed at first, but I soon realized she gave it to me in friendship, not to put me in my place. I read the back of the card: I do not try to heal my friends. I do my own mental work and heal myself. This is the best thing I can do for others. I was so humbled and grateful for Sarah in that moment. It has never left me. Ever since then, every time someone grates on me for doing something that is, in my eyes, wrong, I remember Sarah’s kind offering.
- In the first part of the year, I cultivated a strong connection with a man who became a very close friend. He has inspired me multiple times this year, and I’ve even used his inspiration in a few of my blogs. After reading one of them, he wrote me this note. “So I re-read your blog as requested. I originally felt touched by the part about the friend who talks about his son living in every moment as I saw a connection to me. Now, knowing you wrote that about/for me I am touched even more. Thank you Becky for your kindness and your authenticity. Your (sic) truly a special person and someone someday is going to be very blessed to have you as a partner. Happy New Year and on-on.” I close my eyes now, and remember the warmth I felt when I read that note the first time, and every time thereafter. It reminds me what special and amazing souls I have in my life.
- I attended two writing workshops this year, both of which brought me great joy. In one of the workshops, led by Kate Gray, we were tasked to write a short fiction piece. I ended up writing something about belly dance, and loved it so much that I kept it around. It contains many parts that are true to my own life as well as musings of a greater sort. Here is a short excerpt: “Here, she danced for pleasure. For art. To see her hair fly in the air as she spun in a barrel turn. To see the man drop his pita into the hummus because her muscle isolations made it seem as though her hips were no longer connected to the rest of her body. To feel beautiful in stage makeup, and feel the pure delight of washing it off at the end of the night, watching the makeup and sweat and soap bubbles slink circuitously into the drain and flow somewhere else…She grew up with rhythms from all over the world. She couldn’t imagine a life without romantic harmonies, haunting vibratos, and razor sharp words. Music moved her.” HAPPINESS!
- If you have not read The Four Agreements, I highly recommend it. I wrote each one down and put them in my jar, and they have served me incredibly well this year. You really must read the book, but here are the agreements, in short.
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
- This is an action that has never come easily to me. A friend of mine gave me a deck of cards with meditation words on them a few years ago. Surrender kept coming up for me whenever I pulled this deck out. I decided that Surrender would be my word of the year. And so I have quite happily, and continue to surrender to whatever the universe brings me.
2015 was a year of growth for me. It was not without growing pains, to be sure. Most of these times I understood that there was a bigger message, a lesson I needed to learn. I have to hand it to the universe, it can throw some seriously cockeyed lessons my way, but I do feel strongly that I needed each and every one of them, no matter how painful at the time.
I encourage you to reflect on your 2015 and come up with some of the lessons you experienced, maybe set up a happiness jar for 2016. We’re not all going to get to the other side boasting the ideal job, the perfect mate, and a flawless life, but we can absolutely appreciate the path we’ve taken to get to where we are now—exactly where we’re supposed to be at this time and place.
Hello, friends. It has been quite a while since I’ve written something new. While I’m always learning, always evolving, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to share it with you. Now I’m ready, and I’m very excited to connect with you all again on this level. Life is funny. It sends you lessons, sometimes the same lessons you’ve seen before, over and over, but each time there is a new twist. At times I feel like life is a maze that we go in and out of—we might come out the same opening more than once, but the way that we reached it is never the same way twice.
Trying to take too much control doesn’t do anyone any good. No matter what I do, life is going to happen, and I can either get ahead of it and attempt to control it, or hang on for the ride and hope for the best. The first six months of 2015 I only had enough juice left to hang on… and maybe that was the best thing for me.
I felt lonely. I’ve been single a long time, most of you know this. It gives me a freedom that is amazing, but I was missing having a partner by my side. A month into the new year, something changed in that department. I began a beautiful journey with someone that took me places I never expected. We didn’t put a label on it; we were simply companions, mindful of the love between us and with a goal of becoming better and more aware partners to the people we would encounter down the road.
I spent much of my energy on others. My mother had double knee replacement in June, so I went to care for her for three weeks. Oh boy, did I have high hopes for those three weeks. I was going to get some serious writing done while seeing my school buddies, all while taking care of my mother. That turned out to be a pipe dream. I was working 24/7. When you can’t walk or stand for long periods, there are a lot of things you can’t do…I guess I hadn’t taken that into consideration. I thought I’d be cooking a meal here and there, driving her to the physical therapist and the library…that kind of thing. I did those, plus a hundred more. It was all day long. Every night I fell into bed without an iota of strength to write or even brainstorm. I can’t, however, say that it was all slaving and no fun. I got to see some loved ones. I played some righteous games of Bananagrams. I shopped…and I took care of my mother, who spent 18 years and some change making sure I turned out okay. She deserved every drop of energy I spent on her.
I met someone. Everyone told me It happens when you least expect it—I promise to never, ever say this to a single girlfriend EVER—but it was true in my case. I was finally not sweating the details or intently looking for something serious. Then I got a text from the person I would least have expected it from, which led to an amazing first date and, several more dates down the line, a wonderful boyfriend.
I was having fun. I was laughing with friends, allowing myself pleasure, running, dancing, eating good food, drinking cocktails, hashing, reading, working, hugging, giggling, meeting new people, travelling. I was running myself ragged. It didn’t give me much time to think about things, which is something I tend to do when I have lots to think about! I became somewhat emotionally lazy. At times I stressed myself out worrying. If there is one thing I am sure about myself, it’s that I’m not a lazy person. So why did it feel like I was changing in an undesirable direction?
I got lost in the whirlwind of all these things for a moment. Silly me. I thought I finally knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, and who my community consisted of. I constantly had to remind myself that everything is in its rightful place, at the right pace. And my world shifted, as it always does.
It was scary and incredible. As humans, we should never have all the answers. We should constantly be changing. Part of that is allowing yourself to recognize the gift of taking breaks. Taking time to smell the roses, if you want to wax poetic about it. One thing I always hear about myself is how busy I am. How many plans I make. What if I were to let life come to me for once so I could enjoy the ride, instead of always chasing control?
I know the universe will always provide me with prospects. I just have to slow down, give that control freak a breather, and welcome those opportunities when they come, with the understanding that the maze is always going to change; all I have to do is be present inside of it.
Last week a special Trail Blazer alumnus passed away. I didn’t follow Jerome Kersey in his heyday, however, his presence in the Portland community was very well known by fans and non-fans alike. He became a Trail Blazer ambassador after retiring from the NBA in 2001, and went above and beyond his duties. He made a positive impression on many, and was a true community leader. I even had a few interactions with him at a favorite restaurant that we both frequented a couple of years ago. He was always smiling and friendly to everyone at the bar. Many people have expressed warm remembrances of him from years past, including this beautiful essay by a friend of mine. It’s safe to say that Portland is feeling a great loss this week.
Jerome’s death made me incredibly sad—it hit unexpectedly close to home—but also very pensive and a little tangled inside. I had just come off of a first date when I read about his death on Facebook. I was flying high—my date was nice, a gentleman, adventurous, and he was willing to go zydeco dancing with me, which was a first for both of us, and very cool of him. I was patting myself on the back for taking a chance on someone I may have passed by in another life. We met speed dating, which, let’s be honest, is always a guessing game as to whether you just wasted $29 or met some really cool people that you may or may not ever see again.
So when I read about Jerome’s death, I instantly started reviewing how I spend my time and who I bring into my life. Since I moved to Portland almost 12 years ago, my life has taken many twists, turns, and curved paths that I could never have foreseen. It made me want to reach out to you in the best way I know how—through writing.
I want this blog post to function in two ways: 1) As my Christmas letter for 2014 to tell you what I did last year, and 2) As a way to dispense what I’ve learned in the past year (Okay, 14 months). During December, I kept finding excuses to put off the writing of my annual Christmas letter, and I wasn’t sure why. Now I realize I had so much more to process about my past year before sharing it. Normally I send these out to close friends and family only, but we are all one, we are all family. I love you, and I want you to learn my life lessons along with me. I’ll share my thoughts with you and use examples from my past year to make sure you get the best of both worlds.
Spoil yourself. Spend the money. Take time off. Go somewhere new. You’re worth it! In 2014 I took my third annual solo beach vacation. For three days I ate decadent food, walked on the beach, drank wine, got my nails done, and did whatever my heart desired. I truly pampered myself. I also took a five day camping trip (between several shorter camping trips) to the Olympic Peninsula. It was so awe-inspiring and beautiful! In the fall, I went to New York. If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may know the story that goes with this. If you missed that one, read about it! What an amazing trip. I enjoyed staycations and fancy dates with handsome suitors and nights out on the town with good friends. I’m so blessed to work at a company where they reward loyalty with quite a bit of vacation time, and boy did I take advantage of it!
Challenge yourself. Some of my biggest challenges in life have been the result of belly dance. When I left Ohio, I could shake my booty with a little rhythm, and that was the extent of it. I had no formal training at that point, and I never thought that dance would be something I would later take on as an amateur performer. But then I met Yemaya, a professional belly dancer who also happens to be my long lost third cousin. She somehow convinced me that I was going to be a belly dancer one day. My style had never been particularly feminine, and when she said that, all I could picture was a horror show of obnoxiously bright sequins and awkward dance moves to snake charmer music. However, I allowed her to tease me into a few lessons, and from then on, I was in love. Soon I was practicing multiple times a week, taking every available workshop, and started performing in 2007, debuting at the Oregon Country Fair’s Gypsy Caravan Stage. In the past few years, I have fallen into a “comfortable sweatshirt” type of relationship with belly dance. I still practice and even learn some new skills sometimes, but rarely do I try anything that really scares me. For the last two months, however, I have embraced the sword! Sword dancing scares me—big time. I took a four week course more out of dedication to my teacher than actual interest, but I should have known that it wouldn’t stop there. Now I’m signed up to perform my sword dance in front of a crowd, with the assumption that I won’t allow it to fall off my head and pierce someone’s foot. Terrifying? Yes! Essential to grow as a dancer and as a person? Absolutely!
Embrace Your Sexuality. Yep, we’re talking about it. In the past, I hadn’t been confident in my sensuality or sexuality. This was caused in part by my weight issues as a child, my perceived lack of femininity as a young adult, and being from just above the Bible Belt in the Midwest, where traditional values and conservative ideas still have a hold on the population. I envisioned that the right type of sexuality centered on a husband or at least a serious relationship. I thought that sex under other circumstances was not wrong per se, but not ideal, and not really necessary. I believed that expressing your sexuality freely maybe made you just a little slutty, if not an actual slut. In acknowledging my feelings of judgment, I also recognized that I had mistakenly thought that my lack of sexual expression was a character flaw; now I understood that judging others was a defense mechanism, and my personal level of sexual expression is not a flaw. It is wholly mine, and I must engage it in a way that is true to my own nature and not anyone else’s. Make sure to explore this side of you, even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, because it is so important to know that side of yourself before you share it with anyone else.
Life is short! Do what makes you smile and giggle, and spend time with people who inspire you. There have been so many times that I have stayed home to get a proper night’s sleep, only to find out the next day what unbelievably cool exploits I had missed the night before. If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” I would be a millionaire…okay, maybe I’d have a few bucks. But you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I value my health and I truly feel my best when I’ve had a good night’s rest, but sometimes it is totally worth it to take a chance and stick it out for a little while longer. Nights that I stayed out with the Hash House Harriers for one more conversation, or salsa danced for one more song almost always ended up with new friends, new plans, or a memory I would never forget. I knew that I would feel tired in the morning, but I also knew that I was put on earth to experience those blissful moments…and I have had so many of these moments this past year.
Make every movement with love and authenticity. This is a big one for me. I am a people pleaser. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing joy to your loved ones, making yourself happy and loving who you are will bring you the most joy in this world. Don’t worry about impressing others or fitting normative expectations of your culture. Live with authenticity in your heart and express gratitude for it daily. Be Love, every day.
2014 was a fantastic and enlightening year for me. When I think about the possibility that life can be cut off so abruptly, the way Jerome’s was, it makes me sad, but it also makes me grateful that I do the things I do, know the people I know, and experience miracles every day. Nothing is ever perfect, but my perfectly tangled existence is absolutely an abstract design of immaculate beauty.